22 Powerful Women You’ll Want Your Daughter To Look Up To
Issa Rae, Actor/Writer/Director
Issa Rae premiered her very own HBO original series, Insecure, last year to much fanfare and to many a “yaaass.” The show was well-received for its relatability, hilarity, awkwardness, and overall realness. Issa’s hard work paid off in the form of a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a TV Series – Musical or Comedy. HBO green-lit Insecure’s second season and fans are waiting with bated breath.
Melina Matsoukas, Music Video Director
Melina Matsoukas directed the videos for Beyoncé’s “Formation,” Rihanna’s “We Found Love,” and a host of other popular mega-hits. When she’s not bringing music to life, the two-time Grammy winner is directing popular TV commercials.
Matsoukas also served as executive producer on Insecure with Issa Rae, proving that her talent for music videos translates perfectly to the small screen.
Yara Shahidi, Actor/Model
Seventeen-year-old Yara Shahidi plays the role of Zoey on Blackish. The show has had a whirlwind of a year, receiving award nominations and accolades. Shahidi also recently signed a modeling deal with New York Women’s Management with the focus of helping spread the notion of diversity. She told Vogue last year, “I think it is part of our duty as content creators and people within the entertainment industry to challenge stereotypes.”
Shiona Turini, Fashion Collaborator
Shiona Turini doesn’t like to be called a stylist. Instead she wants to be known as a “fashion collaborator.” That’s what she told the New York Times after helping to style and outfit Solange for two music videos (“Don’t Touch My Hair” and “Cranes in the Sky”) off her most recent album, A Seat at the Table. Now a freelancer, Turini has worked for a host of high-profile magazines, including W, Teen Vogue, CR Fashion Book, and Cosmopolitan.
Elaine Welteroth, Editor-in-Chief, Teen Vogue
Under Elaine Welteroth’s leadership, Teen Vogue has seen wild success. She’s not only increased readership, but also has pushed to cover topics outside of simply fashion, including politics and social activism. On top of all that she’s also the youngest EIC in Conde Nast history.
Franchesca Ramsey, Comedian/TV Host
Franchesca Ramsey is a TV host, podcaster, comedian, and basically jack of all trades. She started as a YouTuber who discussed current events in a humorous but socially responsible way. Her breakout hit “Shit White Girls Say… to Black Girls” racked up over 11 million views. After multiple successes garnered her attention — she was able to pivot into hosting her own MTV web series Decoded. Last year, Ramsey was also featured on Comedy Central’s The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore as a writer and contributor.
Michaela Coel, Poet/Singer-Songwriter/Screenwriter/Actress
Michaela Coel is a singer-songwriter, screenwriter, poet, and probably a dozen other things too. Most recently she received two BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) awards for Best Female Performance in a Comedy and Breakthrough Talent for Chewing Gum, a sitcom inspired by her play Chewing Gum Diaries.
Bozoma Saint John, Head of Global Consumer Marketing at Apple Music
Bozoma Saint John is a marketing executive at Apple Music. People have been paying attention to Saint John behind the scenes for decades now, but she also proved that she can command an audience as well. As last year’s Apple Developer’s conference, she got a crowd of 1,000-plus to all rap to Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” as a promo for Apple Music. Before Apple, Saint John led Pepsi into “music festival-based marketing” and also helped the company secure a $50 million contract with Beyoncé.
Angelica Nwandu, Founder of The Shade Room
Angelica Nwandu is the founder of The Shade Room, a social media-based news organization that provides up-the-minute “tea” on celebrities. The Shade Room boasts over 8 million followers on Instagram alone and posts multiple posts every day, every hour. Nwandu was included on Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list in 2016.
Crissle, Radio and Podcast Host
Chances are if you’re a podcast listener, you’ve heard Crissle on The Read, a wildly popular weekly podcast she co-hosts with best friend Kid Fury. Beyond The Read, Crissles is a host of her own Beats One show, a Twitter superstar, a writer, and comedian.
Chef Resha, Chef
once again, I had an amazing time shooting with Dr. Oz today. he's such a nice guy. to be considered one of his 3 favorite food bloggers is a huge honor and I'm immensely grateful. this show was all about kitchen hacks, ways to cut calories and whatnot. I'll let you know when it airs 💖 and thanks to my social media family (you guys), I wouldn't have these opportunities if it weren't for your support and love. you'll never know how much it means to me.
Chef Resha is a self-taught private chef with a huge following on social media. She travels around cooking for meals for her high-end celebrity clients.
Jamilah Lemieux, Writer, Editor, Speaker
Jamilah Lemieux is an advocate. An advocate for social justice, the underrepresented, and LGBT rights. She’s also a writer, editor, and newbie media executive. Her work has appeared all over the internet — including The Washington Post, Essence, Jet, Black Enterprise, and Jezebel. In addition to her writing, Lemieux’s social media prowess is unrivaled, her Twitter is expert level. In fact, Fortune listed her as one of the most influential women on Twitter. Beyond that she received the Maggie Award for Excellence in Commentary from Planned Parenthood. Currently she’s bossing it up as the VP of news and men’s programming for Interactive One.
Yvonne Orji, Actor
Yvonne Orji broke out in 2016 as Issa Rae’s co-star in Insecure. Her character was relatable, lovable, and maybe just a little over-the-top (but in a good way). Orji was born in Nigeria and grew up in Maryland, and she has a master’s degree in public health from George Washington University. Her parents encouraged her to be a doctor, lawyer, or another more traditional profession —but Orji had other ideas and moved to NYC after grad school to pursue comedy. Her intuition paid off, and now she’s on her way to stardom.
Myleik Teele, CEO and Founder of CurlBox
Myleik Teele is the founder and CEO of CurlBox, a monthly subscription box that provides women with curly hair with roughly four different products. Through CurlBox, Teele has secured partnership deals with huge companies including Proctor & Gamble, Carol’s Daughter, Walmart, Target, and Shea Moisture.
Ursula Stephen, Celebrity Hairstylist
Brooklyn-based Ursula Stephen is a celebrity hairstylist who has worked with the likes of Rihanna, Naomie Harris, Laverne Cox, Mary J. Blige, and countless others. Stephen specializes in African-American hair, and her work has been featured in various magazines and on the big and small screens.
Jenna Wortham, Staff Writer, New York Times Magazine
Jenna Wortham is an award-winning journalist who is currently a staff writer at the New York Times Magazine and co-host of podcast Still Processing. She’s worked for the Times company for nearly 10 years, where her work has evolved from technology reporting to writing on culture, music, women’s issues, emojis as art, and a host of other subjects.
Luvvie Ajayi, Best-Selling Author, Speaker, and Activist
Luvvie Ajayi is a New York Times best-selling author and blogger, and former marketing and digital strategy associate. Most recently Ajayi bossed up when it was announced that Shonda Rhimes had acquired the rights to adapt Ajayi’s best-seller I’m Judging You into a cable comedy series.
Ava DuVernay, Director and Screenwriter
The boss of all bosses, Ava DuVernay is a director, screenwriter, and film distributor. She’s best known for becoming the first African-American to win Best Director at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Besides that, she directed the Golden Globe-nominated film Selma, making her the first black female director to be nominated in the Best Director category. Now Ava is currently directing the action movie A Wrinkle in Time, a film whose budget reportedly exceeds $100 million, making her the first black woman to direct a film of that magnitude. DuVernay is steadily evolving with no signs of slowing down.
Shonda Rhimes, Producer, Screenwriter, and Author
Shonda Rhimes is the queen of television. The producer, screenwriter, and author is at the helm of popular current mainstream TV shows Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, and is the executive producer of How to Get Away With Murder and The Catch. She owns her own production company, Shondaland, and serves as chair and CEO. There honestly aren’t enough words to describe how much black girl magic Shonda is full of, but her storied career speaks volumes.
Simone Oliver, Digital Director, Allure
New York Times veteran Simone Oliver left the iconic paper after 13 years to join Allure in 2016. Before Allure, Oliver started the Times’ very first Instagram account, @nytfashion. At Allure, Oliver has contributed to inclusion of more diverse coverage of all shades and shapes.
Cardi B, Actress, Social Media Star, Rapper
Cardi B, star of reality TV show Love and Hip Hop: New York, has millions of followers on Instagram, and is now a front row regular at fashion shows. She even had a cameo on Being Mary Jane. In addition to all that, she has a budding rapping career, with a mixtape under her belt — and much more to come. Cardi B is the definition of turning nothing into something, and will no doubt continue to flourish.
Kahlana Barfield Brown, Editor-at-Large, InStyle
Kahlana Barfield Brown is the blueprint for hard work, dedication, and fabulousness. She started out as an intern in the media industry, working her way up to her current role as editor-at-large at InStyle — where she bops around the globe from fashion week to fashion week and interviews celebs, influencers, and more. Her advice as told to XO Necole for people trying to do what she does is simple: Have patience and dedication. “A lot of times young girls are impatient and they want it to happen so quickly,” she says. “They try it and if it’s not happening fast enough they move on to something else.”